The Susten Pass

Susten pass road biking

Near the top of the Susten Pass, on the west side, is the Steigletscher Restaurant switchback (1865 meters). Popular with tourists, the turn also marks a paved side road to a small glacier fed lake, the Steisee. Unless you are chasing Strava segments on the pass itself, this 3km road is a worthy detour thanks to some big peaks you’ll be seeing up close.

Susten pass road biking

Leaving Gadmen on the west side of the Susten Pass

Susten pass road biking

Classic Susten Pass scenery

Susten pass road biking

Don’t stress for water, there are at least two fountains roadside if climbed from the west.

Susten pass road biking

Alain & Dan arriving to the Susten Pass during their July 2012 Swiss CrissCross. Sunny at the bottom, arctic, driving snow at the top. It was a very cold descent…

The Susten Pass West Side ascent

The Susten Pass features in the Best cycling climbs of Switzerland, and for good reason. It’s big, and beautiful.

DescriptionThe Susten Pass was built between 1938–1945 and connects Innertkirchen in the canton of Bern with Wassen in the canton of Uri. While both sides start in forested valleys and climb into an alpine landscape, the west side provides the best ascent and riding experience thanks to lots of turns and varying terrain.

The first kilometers of the climb from Innertkirchen start with rolling terrain, where the climbs are steep (up to 11%) followed by flatter sections. As you arrive to Gadmen you can’t help but feel tiny pedaling along 2000 meters beneath the towering walls of the Wendenstöcke, one of the most famous rock climbing areas in Europe. In the town of Gadmen itself, which oddly resembles a wild west town, the real climbing begins. From here, the pass is never steep, but it is long (13km), which you won’t mind thanks to the views of the  Stei Glacier and the Sustenhorn, as well as all the surrounding peaks providing a welcome distraction to the fact that your legs are getting heavier.

After 11 tunnels and 12 switchbacks, the summit lies at 2,224m. A 300m tunnel leads to the other side and the descent into Wassen. Riding up the Sustenpass from the east side is great too, although the long, straight drag up the Meien valley can look a bit discouraging. It is the last climb of the Alpenbrevet, one of Switzerland’s most popular Granfondos, before the twisting and turning, silky smooth paved descent into Innertkirchen, one of the most fun in the Alps.

Like many high passes in Switzerland, the Susten is closed in winter. The snow is cleared around the end of May, but there is a period where the road remains closed, except to cyclists…  an annual time trial.

Start : Innertkirchen /   Finish : So many options… more passes? Or, back the way you came. You are in the land of the passses.

Distance : Innertkirchen – Susten Pass 28km, – Wassen 46km

Vertical : ~1700 meters

Effort : Medium / Avg Gradient : 5.7%

Alain’s Tip : Be prepared for any type of weather on the Susten Pass. During the 2012 Swiss CrissCross project with Dan & Janine, we started in the sun and finished in a driving snow. Welcome to Switzerland!


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